Traveling with a Plan

Oct. 5, 2014. 006We have been in Paris more than a month now. This is the first blog I’ve written and it’s not about Paris. It’s about traveling to southern Germany and what we have discovered about ourselves and travel.

This may sound like a travel-log, but for us, it was following -or perhaps leading- in the footsteps of the main characters in our novel-in-progress. We know we most enjoy traveling when we have a goal for the travel. Our rally through Africa (May, 2014) was like that and so was this trip. We went with a purpose, to experience several different settings for our story.

We took the train to Munich. Arriving during October Fest, 006which for us was only an inconvenience. We rented a car and proceeded to our first stop, Wernberg, Germany near the Czech border (that’s significant to the book.)

014We picked a castle hotel, Hotel Berg Wernberg which dates from 1280. This castle had been a hotel for only 16 years and before that was privately owned. 015Imagine that. We ate our first 2-Michelin Star meal. Once we had selected our meal, we were presented with our personal menu, signed by the chef. 005Our characters, Sam and Renate, spend a weekend here and we came away with many details to add to our book.

The stop in Wernberg actually was planned for another reason. Much of the novel takes place on the U.S. Army base in 1952 in Grafenwoehr some 15 miles from Wernberg. Ed was stationed here for air observer school in 1957-58, and Sam was in 1952. We wanted to get on the base to refresh Ed’s memory (I’m sure Sam remembers it all). 019No more grass airstrip and enlarged barracks houses Germany military as well as U.S. troops.

Mr. Franz Zeilman, from the office of public affairs was our enthusiastic host. He spent much of the day showing us around the base and making sure we had the opportunity to visit the air field and all the areas we wanted to see. The only disappointment was discovering that there is no longer an 033043 Officer’s Club (which does play a role in our book) . The building is there and it is now the (water) Tower View restaurant.  We made one 056more stop in Vilseck.

Next to Garmisch-Partenkirchen where Sam and Renate spend a winter weekend and rode the cog train to the top of the Zugspitze. 032We had been here before and it is unchanged. Still a beautiful Alpine village. We walked the same streets, crossing the Loisach river just 040as Sam and Renate did. It’s hard to imagine that this town looks any different now than it did in 1952.

Last stop was Berchtesgaden and the 013Obersalzberg. We really wished we had planned more time for this stop. Since our story involves people who lived here during Hitler’s conversion of the  Obersalzberg into his second seat of power, this was an important stop. It is hard to imagine this 024beautiful, peaceful area as the headquarters for the most horrific regime in modern times. Yet this is the setting his propaganda machine used to portray him as “a friend of the children, close to the people, and a good neighbor”. (by the way, he took over the land and bought out or drove out the owners of the houses for his own purpose.)

Then back to Munich and a train back to Paris. Our on-the-ground research was done. We saw picturesque villages, spectacular 051mountains and met friendly, helpful people. We learned much that will make changes and additions to our novel. And we learned our travels are more meaningful when we have a specific reason for the trip. Guess we’ll just have to continue to write in exotic settings.


Jan and Ed


About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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2 Responses to Traveling with a Plan

  1. TBC says:

    We have a friend who is here with us in NH whose is an Army brat and lived in Germany, both as a child and as an Army officer. I’ll ask him if he knows of the former officers’ club in Wernberg.

    Hugs to you both,


    • ejhowle23 says:

      Thanks, he might not even know Grafenwoehr. We did have lunch in the former officers club but it is now open to the public. It’s an economic thing we were told.

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